Cultural delicacy or gross animal cruelty? Shark fin soup is an expensive Chinese delicacy served on special occasions, especially traditional wedding banquets, that can be sold for $85 – 100 a bowl. However, in order to get the fins from the sharks, most fisherman simply slice them off and then shove the sharks back into the ocean to slowly bleed to death, not even bothering to butcher the rest of the animal.

Higher disposable incomes in Asia have increased the demand for this soup and, in turn, the shark population has been rapidly declining, detrimentally affecting the ocean ecosystems in which they live. Furthermore, the health hazards to the soup are high (particularly for pregnant women); the meat on the fins have high levels of mercury, formaldehyde and other chemicals that cause reproductive harm. Delicious.

And with California, particularly the Bay Area, having the highest number of Chinese people outside of China, there is a lot of shark fin soup being consumed here. In an effort to stem this cycle, State Assembly members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman have introduce a ban on the soup.

However, Senator Leland Yee objects to the ban. KGO News reports that, “State Senator Leland Yee says that while he is opposed to illegal finning, he will fight the legislation because it is insensitive to Chinese culture.”

For more on the environmental impact of the shark fin harvesting, read Erica Gies piece in the SF Public Press and for more on this controversy, go to KGO News.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Audrey